It was likely the last great public work to be built by by private investors.
I watched it get built, as we crossed the Chesapeake on ferries on our semi-annual trips to visit my grandmother; I have posted about it here several times.
My local rag recounts the story of the building of the Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel, 17.5 miles of trestle, two tunnels, and one high-level bridge crossing the mouth of the Atlantic Ocean.
Every time I cross it–and I have crossed it dozens of times–I marvel. Crossing it late at night, there is just you, the bridge, and the ocean. If you want to cross it with me, download and watch this file (*.mov).
One time many years ago, I drove down from Washington to pick up my brother, who was flying in from South Carolina for a holiday (as I waited for him at the Norfolk Airport, I was accosted by a Moonie–remember Moonies?–to whom I gave a dollar to leave me alone because I had been on the road for four hours and just could not cope). In the first tunnel, some fellow crossed the double-yellow line to pass us at high speed. As we exited the second tunnel, we saw that fellow in earnest conference with the CBBT police.
These days, it would never be built.
The money would instead be devoted to paying for the country club memberships for the one per cent.
Here’s more about the Chesapeake Bay Ferries. The Princess Anne was the flagship; the Accomac was pressed into service when another ship was in repair. All of them had a restaurant and a lounge. In later years, when our family was a bit more flush, we might have breakfast on board.
The funnest thing for my brother and me was hanging over the bow railing in the summer watching the boat cut through at a stunning speed of ten or eleven knots the “stinging nettles,” Eastern Shore for stinging jellyfish which were clearly visible from the height of the upper deck. (The ferries took a scheduled hour and a half for the seventeen-mile crossing.)
Stinging nettles were a steady summer threat at Chesapeake Bay beaches in the lower bay (in the upper bay, there is too much fresh water for them to survive). A sting was a common thing if you swam in the bay in the late summer. In the wider bay, the jellyfish would grow to be three feet or more across.